Friday, 30 June 2017

English Civil War Romance



Reviewed by Francine:

The Royalist defeat at the Battle of Naseby (1645) is the opening scene to Traitor's Knot, and cannot by any stretch of imagination be quantified in death and injury alone. Miraculously alive, and determined to survive and fight another day, James Hart traverses a path of broken bodies whilst the stark crushing horror of it all tests his resolve in how to evade the triumphant Parliamentarian victors. With an episode of derring-do, alongside untold fear of detection, Hart's life and future has fallen to the hands of fate, and his reaching the Royalist stronghold of Bristol affords momentary relief. But nothing in times of war can be counted on as secure, and with a royal prince taking flight from the country what hope exists for eventual victory for the royal standard?         

By chapter two, time has moved on to 1650, the time of The Interregnum, the year after the beheading of Charles I, the year his son Charles II, sets out to regain the throne of England. Here the reader meets Elizabeth Seton, the last but one of the Weymouth Setons' - a family of traitors as far as many are concerned. Thus life for a single and vulnerable young lady is thwart with dangers, and with a sister married to a Parliamentarian, Elizabeth's life is subject to their influence, and their unwanted intentions for her future. Brave but grief stricken with the death of her mother, stoical Elizabeth sets out to make a life for herself elsewhere, unknowing of what lies ahead in Warwickshire, or that she and Hart are destined to cross paths in strange circumstances. With a journey fraught with the dangers of highwayman and vagabonds, can her life become any more dangerous? Indeed it can, when the likes of a secret organisation eventually embroils her in its humanitarian bent to help those in need and undermine the enemy. 

As time progresses and supporters of the King believe he will march south from Scotland, that battle will ensue, and all will be as it should be for the Royalist cause, James and Elizabeth are drawn one to the other, and as love blossoms war is nigh. As with all historical fiction, even romantic fiction, history itself dictates the outcome and the author adheres strictly to historical fact. In bearing a great passion for this particular period in history both as a reader and author, I thoroughly enjoyed James Hart and Elizabeth Seton's adventures and all the heart-rending experiences that befell them. Make no mistake this a swashbuckling romance set within the English Civil Wars, and a delightful step back in time.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Regency!




Reviewed by Charlotte. See her blog @ Charlotte

The Book’s Premise:

Did you love the wit and elevated dialogue of Pride and Prejudice, yet always wish you got to see Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have it off? Set in England in the early 1800's, with hoydens, lords and rakes, this is the witty and sexy regency romance you have been waiting for...

London-hating dreamer, Lydia Norwood, has failed spectacularly as a débutante. Now an encoretante whose family has lost a fortune, Lydia discovers that the beau monde is hard on a nouveau riche social climber, particularly one who is no longer riche and only wants to climb trees. Lydia must stave off the effrontery of rogue lords and conniving competitors long enough to make a good match, or else incur society's scorn by earning her own money. Falling for the unattainable Lord Aldley is a distraction she cannot afford. But they share such an enchanted history, how can her heart resist?

The tragically virtuous Earl of Aldley is tired of ambitious families hurling debutantes at his head, but cannot hide in France forever. He returns to London to seek out the mysterious tree-climbing girl who once saved him from a scheming chit, and finds more than he bargained for. Abductions, seductions, trickery and injury all endanger Lydia, but Lord Aldley's heart is imperiled beyond rescue. He has only just found her; will he lose her forever to his enemy, his best friend, or his own dangerous mistake?

My Review:
First off the premise and title reveal almost all the major plot points including one or two plot spoilers. Though why Jane Austen’s wit and elevated dialogue in Pride and Prejudice gets a mention I know not after reading Three Abductions and An Earl.

Apart from the revealing premise the story started well with a little intrigue, and it progressed at a steady pace with amusing asides and character introductions. Though it slowed a great deal and required a good many chapters until the scenes were set for envy, conflict, and disreputable intrigue. Even so, the way Earl Aldley and Lydia Norwood hedged around each other with words and secret thoughts was mildly amusing to begin with. All the while the sub-characters Tilly and Rutherford (for this reader at any rate), more than edged ahead of the hero and heroine and they did thank God carry the plot forward after the first abduction took place. Here Rutherford took the lead role as the wounded hero and Lydia had every reason to be grateful to him.

Things then turned silly when Lydia revealed bluestocking dreams of going into trade, which became an ancillary thread amidst a lengthy period of comings and goings and spiteful rumours and female rivalry escalated. Funnier still Aldley who at the start is a well travelled aristocrat turned into a lovesick whimpering puppy panting and wagging his tail every time he gets close to Lydia, and then abduction two happens and the end result is a carriage accident.

Poor bedridden Lydia is then confused while the earl resides in limbo land not knowing if he can have a place in her life, and to the sidelines Rutherford and Tilly making out in the sick room brought me to tears because believe me the second half of the book is as funny as the premise promises even though it takes a long time to plough the farce and reap the sinful harvest of lustful hopes and dreams.

Reviewer aside:
At 20 plus Kindle pages per chapter it’s a long slow read with 58 chapters in all. While the first half of the book has a good literary edge with formal permutations relevant to on dit [they say] and pen r√©p [error] the second half falls away to a more relaxed style and strangely less formality all told.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Under The Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage - further medieval mayhem





Reviewed by M. J. Logue






The third book in a series I have come to love as much as the author's other series.... 

It is still a wonder and a joy to me how the author has managed to create two totally different and totally plausible worlds. I know it's not the done thing to compare two different series-es, but it's so easy for a writer to simply transplant a set of successful characters into another period, appropriately renamed. And Ms Belfrage doesn't - Adam and Kit are fully-rounded (and in Kit's case, almost perpetually fully rounded: might I suggest that Adam ties a knot in it, for the next instalment?) carefully-crafted creatures of the medieval period. 

Yes, there is action and intrigue a-plenty, and adventure to stir the blood. But although they're well done and deftly handled, my favourite parts of this novel are the little domestic touches where the author's research makes for an intimate, tender portrayal of medieval family life. The omniscient Mabel, for instance, I love. (I am also intrigued by Adam's brother William, who may be a man of the cloth but who, I think, has something of a most un-canonical tenderness for Kit. I wonder what will come of it...because I am pretty sure Adam won't like it if he finds out. And I cannot help but wonder if William is quite what he seems to be, or whether a very de Guirande ambition is hidden behind that virtuous exterior...) 

Without giving too much away, I am DELIGHTED to see that my doubts regarding Tom in the first book, were shared by Kit in this one. And that William's handling of that situation is what makes me wonder if he's all he seems to be. 

I love the way themes are developing in this series: the themes of family ties, dysfunctional and otherwise: of deceptions both kindly and unkindly meant; of the contrast between theI "right" and the "wrong" love. Ms Belfrage creates a wonderfully shaded world in which the right choices are not always the defensible choices. There are times when I don't like Adam very much: he doesn't always put his family first, although he always puts his family's future first. (As I said. A very de Guirande ambition.) He can be arrogant, quick-tempered, high-handed. He's also an entirely typical medieval male, and much though I might want him to put Kit's needs to the fore at times, it would be anachronistic for him to do so. 


So book four soon, please - I'm watching that William.... 




Saturday, 3 June 2017

Regency Mystery and Suspense.




Reviewed by Francine: 


Having ventured to the Far East as an East India Company man, Reinhart Maycott is essentially a reluctant aristocrat. His life in India encapsulates the intrepid and adventurous spirit of the young Reinhart, until the sudden and unexpected elevation to a marquisate forces him back to his homeland. And no matter his shady existence in the nether wilds of India and scandalous rumours that abound, every mama in England has taken note of his return to home shores, not least that of Lady Parbury, who immediately sets out to present her eldest and most ravishing daughter for his delectation.

Of course, Reinhart (Ren) is far from conventional, any more than young Mariah Parbury, who indeed recognises Ren’s extreme handsomeness as does her elder sister Rorie (Aurora), but it is his travels and former lifestyle that prove as captivating as his golden eyes to Mariah, whilst her mother sees only wealth and status for her eldest darling. And so the fun begins as Lady Parbury sets forth to create a match made in heaven, but the best laid plans ‘n’ all are thwarted as Ren’s past begins to encroach and threaten those close to him. As happened whilst in India, life becomes fraught with ever increasing dangers, and if love should blossom betwixt him and a Parbury miss the death knell may ring out as it had when he was far away in India.

The great mystery of who is plaguing Ren’s life comes to light at the very end of the story, as would be expected of a good suspense novel. I applaud the author for the story’s unusual theme of a man and his big cat, a man who harbours a secret longing for love but dare not embrace it. As for the delightful heroine with an inquisitive mind and foolish daring, she set the tone nicely for touches of farce, fear, and she was indeed deserving of a happy ever after. Nice one Ms Eastwood.